Skip to content
On this page

Proof of Existence

The proofofexistence module enables uploading a proof of existence by combining blockchain immutability with hashing integrity.

Abstract

This document specifies the proofofexistence module in EmpowerChain.

The module enables uploading a proof of existence of any document or piece of data, by hashing the data and uploading it to be stored on-chain. The combination of Blockchain immutability and hashing integrity allows for anyone to prove later that a piece of data:

  1. The data existed at least at the time it was added on-chain
  2. It has not changed since then

Contents

  1. Concepts
  2. State

Concepts

Proof of Existence

Sometimes also called "constructive proof" or "existence proof" in mathematics and is a method of proof that demonstrates the existence of a mathematical object by creating or providing a method for creating the object. In our case, it is a way for someone to prove that some piece of data (document, text, bytes, etc) existed at a specific point in time (and has not changed since).

A proof of existence is a combination of a hash and a timestamp where both are immutable (and everyone trusts that they are in fact immutable). Given a piece of data that was hashed and that hash was stored on an immutable blockchain, anyone who has the same data can at any time prove to themselves or other that the data existed at the point the proof was added on-chain.

An important property of Proof of Existence is also that you don't need to provide the data itself until a verification of proof is needed. In other words, all that is stored on-chain is the proof, which cannot be used to re-create the original data.

The typical examples include:

  • Demonstrating data/IP ownership
  • Proving data has not changed/been corrupted
  • Document integrity

Hashing

A cryptographic hash is the output of a mathematical hashing function that turns (maps) a variably sized piece of data into a small, practically unique, fixed size unique string ("the hash"). Traditionally these hashes are used for security purposes such as avoiding to store passwords in databases for software services (instead they just store a hash of the password that was provided when the user registered, and then check the provided password upon login with the stored hash).

The way hashes are used in Proof of Existence is in combination with the immutability of a Blockchain. When someone needs to verify some data they can find the hash on the blockchain and compare it to the data they have themselves. They only need to run the data through the same hashing function and compare their output with the hash stored on the blockchain. If they are the same, the data has not been altered and existed at the time the transaction was entered into the blockchain.

Hash collision

...or the potential for fake proofs:

Whenever you map something large (or at least larger than the output) into something small there will also be the theoretical possibility of collisions, where two different datasets yield the same result. In other words it is theoretically possible to have one hash function as the correct proof for more than one set of data. To illustrate this we can take as example the widely used SHA-256 hashing algorithm: It produces a hash made out of 32 bytes (1 byte is 8 bits, so a total of 256 bits) and each byte can each represent 256 different values. The total number of possible permutations under SHA-256 then becomes 32^256. That is such an absurdly large number (it is a number so large that it has 386 digits and is more than 10^56 (or just about 3 septendecillion) times larger than the number of atoms in the universe) that any practical chances of a collision is just about inconceivable.

State

The proofofexistence module keeps track of the proofs of existence uploaded to the chain.

Proof

A Proof consists of a hash, a timestamp and a reporter address. This gives you enough information to prove that a hash existed at a specific point in time. You can prove you knew the hash at said time (if you can also prove that you are the owner of the reporter address).

  • Proof 0x01 | hash | -> ProtocolBuffer(Proof)

The hash is not made on-chain to avoid the privacy issues that would entail. Instead, the hash is just checked to be a valid SHA-256 hash.

The timestamp is simply taken from current block's header (i.e. the time of the block).

The reporter address is the address of the account that is creating the transaction.